Murray had to match Novak Djokovic’s results at the O2 Arena to remain world number one Andy Murray, showered in ticker-tape and applause, carried the same dazed and disbelieving look at the ATP World Tour Finals on Sunday evening that we saw when he finally won Wimbledon three years ago.
To topple Novak Djokovic at the O2 Arena was a mighty achievement, to replace him as the best player in the world was simply extraordinary.
Murray had managed to overhaul the Serb in the rankings with a remarkable run of form in the second half of the season, but beating him across the net proved it was more than a statistical quirk.
As Djokovic himself said: “Andy is definitely number one in the world.”
What we know about the Scot is that he will leave no stone unturned in trying to permanently dethrone Djokovic.
“Murray is an amazing athlete. He’s going to try to take advantage of this time because it’s limited, we all know that,” said former number one John McEnroe.
“I do anticipate he’s going to do everything possible to take advantage of it.
“But I would hope there’s a lot of hungry players behind him that see a void and an opening, as well as Novak, who wants to catch Rafa Nadal and potentially Roger Federer.”
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Mats Wilander: “Murray has learned how you have to keep on practising harder and harder and harder, just to stay where you are.”
Murray’s work ethic is well known, and remains as punishing as ever as he enters the latter stages of his career.
The second serve was long seen as a weakness in his game, and is something he has taken steps to address.
The success was there for all to see in his semi-final at the O2 – no longer a timid effort there for the taking, it dug him out of trouble more than once against Milos Raonic.
Heading into the season finale at the O2 Arena, Murray had won 54% of the points on his second serve in 2016 – a 2% rise on the previous year and equalling his best ever.
Hardly an eye-popping statistic, but one of a number of ‘marginal gains’ that, played out across 11 months and 18 tournaments, can make a significant difference to the more obvious numbers of titles won and ranking points gained.
“How many times have we said to be more aggressive on his return? Move forward more often? Hit his forehand bigger?” said McEnroe.
“He’s been extremely patient, he’s persevered and he’s also gotten better. That combination is hard to do when you’ve been dealt a bunch of blows against three of the greatest players who ever lived.
“To come out of that a better player, and a better man it appears, is pretty amazing, so I give him a lot of credit.”